The Nevada Northern Railway offers a chance for families to visit the North Pole during the Polar Express trains in December. (Photo courtesy of the Nevada Northern Railway)

The Nevada Northern Railway offers a chance for families to visit the North Pole during the Polar Express trains in December. (Photo courtesy of the Nevada Northern Railway)

Ely Times Staff Writer

The Nevada Northern Railway began its trips to the North Pole last Saturday as the NNRy’s Polar Express trains began. The trains, which run on select dates through Dec. 28, had a successful start with Santa visiting riders, and a little snow to add to the mood.
“The first Polar Express went off without a hitch and even better yet, we had snow for our first trip to the North Pole,” Executive Director Mark Bassett said.

The trains are among the most popular at the NNRy, with more than 3,000 riders expected to take the trip during the Polar Express trains. And for everyone involved, creating some holiday memories is something they all look forward too.

“This is a magical time of the year at the railroad,” Bassett said. “The Polar Express creates memories not only for families, but also the staff too. People come from far away to ride our Polar Express. This generates excitement everywhere.”
As families gather to enjoy the Polar Express trains, it’s the volunteers who help ensure the trains run smoothly and on schedule every time, Bassett said.

“Without our volunteers, I’m afraid there would just be a lump of coal in our stockings and no trips to the North Pole on the Polar Express,” Bassett said. “The museum just doesn’t have enough staff to cover all of the positions necessary to the Polar express. It is the volunteers who come forward to assist us and make sure the Polar Express can depart East Ely for the North Pole. Volunteers cover all positions from engineer to conductor, to narrators and serves and to the jolly old elf himself.”

The volunteers help with the running of trains, whether that be serving or narrating during the ride, or checking and fixing any issues that come up before and after each train ride. And with large crowds expected for each Polar Express train combined with unpredictable weather, volunteers are essential to keeping the trains running, Bassett said.

“Winter train operations are difficult,” Bassett said. “The snow, while lovely to look at, must be shoveled from walkways and from around switches. And then we have three trains a day. The pressure really mounts because there is little time in between trains and everything needs to be just perfect for each train. Without the help of our volunteers, this just would not be humanly possible.”

The Polar Express trains are expected to sell out, so Bassett said he recommends families buy and reserve seats early to avoid missing out.

“We still have tickets available on all of our trains,” Bassett said. “I would strongly suggest that people make reservations so they don’t become disappointed.”

Interested parties can also visit for a fund raising auction where Polar Express ticket packages and more are being auctioned off.  For more information and to reserve tickets, please call 289-2085.

As the NNRy begins its trips to the North Pole for families and people of all ages to enjoy, Bassett said the trains represent the best of the holiday season and something that can draw families back again and again.

“I think the train is a reflection of the holiday,” Bassett said. “Yes we take the train to the North Pole to see Santa. But more importantly, the theme is about believing, even when those around you don’t. And let’s face it that is hard to do. And on the Polar Express we have families together without distractions, which is sometimes tough to do in our everyday lives. So yes, the Polar Express is magical and families come every year to experience it. We’ve seen children grow up over the years.”